Doctors removed a living leech from the throat of a 5 year old child after the parasite lived there undetected and caused painful symptoms for “more than a year”.
A young patient was treated in Shuangjiang County, Yunnan Province, Southwest China, on October 16 while being held overnight for monitoring, a hospital report said.
Shuangjiang People’s Hospital said the boy from Mengku town in the county experienced relapsing symptoms including sore throat, difficulty breathing and snoring while sleeping.
He was previously taken to other facilities for treatment, but his condition still lasted for more than 12 months, the hospital said.
According to the report, the parasite measuring 2.75 inches in size was discovered by ENT specialist Zhu Weihong.
A video released by the facility showed Dr. Zhu reached into the child’s throat with a forceps before pulling the still twisted leech out of the boy’s mouth.
Other doctors in the operating room could see a surprised expression as the parasite emerged and swung back and forth from the clip, the video showed.
“This is a leech removed from the back of the glottis of a five-year-old boy. It is likely that the leech is what caused the boy’s breathing difficulty,” Zhu said.
“Maybe he drank raw water,” the doctor added, the boy may have ingested eggs or leeches in the form of larvae. “If our children in rural areas do not change their hygiene practices, such cases will continue to exist.”
“Parents should be reminded not to give their children raw water,” he said
Zhu said the “fit” condition in the boy’s throat was likely the parasite that had lived there “for more than a year” before being found.
Commenting on this case, Dr. Yu Zhiqiang, Ruikang Hospital in Nanning, Guangxi, told Guangxi TV station: “The leeches can find their way into our bodies through the oral cavity or nose and live in upper respiratory tract.
“They live on our blood and some grow in size. Some patients experience symptoms such as pain or blockage of the nasal passages; others present with a cough, sometimes coughing up blood.
“Some leeches grow so large that they eventually block the throat, making it difficult to breathe.
“Ideally, we should handle high-heat food, cook it well before eating it.”
Yu explains that it is the most effective way to kill eggs.
Leeches are found all over China and thrive in temperatures between 50 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, local media reported.